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PRAMILA DANDAVATE (1929-2002)


Pramila Dadavate was a politician and champion of women’s rights. She was born in a prosperous middle class family. In her youth in 1944 she took part in the setting up of the Konkan Rashtra Seva Samiti, but felt this Samiti was divorced from current issues. With Kusum Mahale and Kusum Kulkarni, she then became involved with the Rashtra Seva Dal. She studied at the J.J. School of Art but was more interested in attending M.G. Ranade’s village camps and became sensitized to women’s issues. She married the Janata Dal politician Madhu Dandavate and they took part in the Goa Mukti Andolan of 1955, or the movement to end Portuguese rule in Goa. Her husband was injured in the firing on that occasion. The couple then became involved with the movement for a united Maharashtra, and spent time in and out of jails. Around this time she got a UNESCO scholarship to go to England. With Mrinal Gore and Ahilya Rangnekar she took part in the ‘latne morchas’ or ‘rolling pin marches’ taken out by crowds of women carrying rolling pins. In 1971 her husband was elected to the Lok Sabha, and she looked after his Konkan constituency while he was in Delhi. Later she too was elected from Mumbai North Central constituency in the 1970s. She was president of the Mahila Dakshyata Samiti, a prominent organisation promoting women’s issues. She campaigned against dowry killings and bride burning. She was jailed at Yerawada for the duration of the Emergency of 1975-6. With Jamila Verghese and Ranjana Kumari, she edited Widows and Destitute Women in India (1989). When she moved to Delhi, she established the Mahila Dakshyata Samiti in Delhi also. She was a founder member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a member of its National Council and of the National Executive Committee for a number of years.
 
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